Roysia, Greneway and Meridian parents give school merger panel a grilling at Royston meeting

Laura Rawlings talks to parents about the future of Roysia, Greneway and Meridian Schools.

Laura Rawlings talks to parents about the future of Roysia, Greneway and Meridian Schools. - Credit: Archant

Parents of children affected by the Royston schools merger proposals packed into two meetings called ‘to help shape the new school’ – and many came away with more questions than answers.

Alan Davidson, Carol Boston and Laura Rawlings on the panel.

Alan Davidson, Carol Boston and Laura Rawlings on the panel. - Credit: Archant

The plans will see Roysia and Greneway middle schools and Meridian School – which are all governed by Royston Schools Academy Trust, created six years ago – become one entity with Laura Rawlings at the helm from September 2018.

The panel was made up of RSAT chair Carol Boston, Dr Alan Davidson – RSAT consultant and a former headteacher – and current Greneway and Roysia head Mrs Rawlings. It was chaired by Jonathan Davies, who had no connection with the school.

There were two meetings on the night to allow more parents to attend.

The message from speeches by Mrs Boston and Mrs Rawlings at the start of the meetings was that this was about turning three schools rated ‘good’ by Ofsted into one ‘outstanding’ school and that they didn’t have a set site for the new school as yet, but the move was to make the one school financially improved and sustainable.

They said that having parents’ feedback on what the schools did well and what didn’t work so well – as well as putting any questions they had to the panel – was “invaluable” to help shape the new school.

There was also an apology for “poor communication from the school to parents so far” – and when the floor was opened, questions came in thick and fast.

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One parent asked “what evidence was there that made the two-tier, as opposed to the current three tier system, a success?”

Dr Davidson said that there is evidence from other schools to show that children perform better Progress 8 under the new system.

“He also said often research suggests children benefit from the opportunity to form a relationship with someone they get on with over the eight years, which they wouldn’t have the chance to do over the three tier system.”

There were questions about where the school would be, and this wasn’t confirmed just that it would be one ring-fenced school site. This prompted parents to ask “why there wasn’t to be a new pupil intake at Roysia from 2018?”, and about staff jobs.

Mrs Rawlings said it was for “practical” purposes – that the proposals were being spearheaded from Greneway and not Roysia – and that they had to “travel in the direction in which they were going.”

Dr Davidson said: “It’s a merger of three schools, so it’s not necessarily teachers from Roysia who will leave.”

One parent asked the panel why they should trust what’s being said.

Mrs Boston said: “That’s a fair question, and what you have to trust is information you are being given, merging three schools into one better school. People have to under-promise and over-deliver to build that trust.”

One the parent responded: “I don’t see how we trust you to deliver when the finances you’ve been responsible for over the last six years are in the state they are.”

To a question about the timeline of the proposals, the response was that this would be made known “imminently” but they “need to make sure everyone gets the information first.”

There were comments from parents supporting the move, saying that change can be a good thing, and should be embraced, but this sentiment wasn’t shared by the majority of those who asked questions.

One parent said their child, who had just settled into Year 5 at Roysia was in tears every night after being told by other children that their school wasn’t going to be there next year. Another said their child had come back telling of plans for the new school.

A parent said their child had autism and had just gone into year 6 at Roysia, and that they chose the school because she doesn’t take well to change, and needs support.

The panel said they will need to do something about pupils speculating, and that children will still have support in place.

There was a question regarding what would happen to the sixth form - and the answer was that they are looking to reshape the sixth form with a school locally, by collaborating with school Knights Templar - to which the audience said, “That’s not local.”

Mrs Boston said: “We are looking at the best we can provide, the alternative is not offering a sixth form.”

As they were unable to all the questions, parents were told to email their children’s school offices with the questions they have, with the subject heading ‘RSAT’.

After the meeting, one parent told the Crow: “We still don’t know what’s going to happen.

And dad Chris Tower said: “You have a process that’s been going on six years, and they expect to do it in 11 months? It’s ridiculous!”